Daniel's Story Chapter 9.
9. The days afterwards
Friday, August 18.
The days after Daniels death are centered around the church and our house. Yuki and I continue to receive and make telephone calls. I call the leader of my new research project and tell him that Daniel has died. I also call the administration and ask to grant me a delay in the submission of the final papers. Their response is positive, which takes a part of the stress away from me. My brother calls, telling me that he might barely make it to the cremation, and he has to take a regular business flight from Germany to Japan. This makes my decision final to go on my trip to Germany. I discuss things with Yuki and she thinks that she is able to stay the 10 days alone in Sapporo.
At 10 a.m. someone of our family has to go to the ward office to do some paperwork related with the family register and the cremation. Yuki is supposed to go, but I don't want to leave her alone, thus both of us go. Yuki's mother doesn't like the idea, because she is alone when visitors come, but we stay adamant. At the ward office, putting Yuki's seal on the papers makes Daniel's death again a little bit more real. In the car an the way back home tha clock shows 10:43. "Is it really only 24 hours ago that Daniel died?" I think. Somehow it feels like weeks. Back home we greet group of visitors after group. I don't remember all of them, so unreal is everyting.
I again have that feeling of observing myself. I am standing besides me, asking "Olaf, why can't you cry? Why can't you shed more tears?" I observe myself, being in outwardly composed and in a 'stable' mind.
In the afternoon the Goodall's come to see us. After a short visit to the casket, their kids go to the second floor and play. I ask Gerald if he would like to translate for me in the evening. He immediately agrees. I feel that the bond between us is getting stronger. He somehow reminds me more and more of an older brother; maybe becuase he is the same age as my brother in Germany. Gerald has given me much consolation in the time when Daniel was ill. His profound Bible knowledge gives him the ability to quote a just-to-the-point Bible passage in times of need. He is such a kind, gentle, pasionate guy. In the same time he is is logical, observing and straight forward. All this makes him a very trustworthy person. When he learned that Yuki was pregant he greeted me with "Welcome to the club!", referring to his own four kids. It is really sad that this will not come true. We will stay as a club of three, with short interlude as a club of 2.
At 4 pm, Gustavo and Hisamoto-san came to our house with the church van to carry Daniel's body to ICF. I want to accompany them and drive behind them in our Odyssey. I don't want to leave Daniel alone. Suddenly, on the road we use to take everytime we go to church, maybe 1 km before the church, I have the picture of angels circulating over the van. I start praying, hearing angels singing Hallelujah. I have the vision of an open heaven for the evenings wake. The vision disappears as quick as it appeared. Arriving at the church, I and Gustavo carry the cascet to the second floor, where church members and people from a flower shop are still busy to prepare the place for the wake that evening. It looks very nice with many colorfull flowers in front of the stage where the cascet will be placed. On both sides are flowers from friends, my university, the school and so on. I leave immediately hurrying back to Yuki.
Later that afternoon we arrive all together at the church at 18:30, one hour before the wake. There are already many people in the church and when I go to the front to open Daniel's cascet the people, especially the children start coming to the front to see Daniel's face. I liked that moment. It was unplanned, so natural, full of anticipation. Many of the new arrivals at the wake follow the example and come to the front, having a look at Daniel and condolescing us. I am reminded of Jesus' words "let the children come to me" and this is a great comfort to me. Time is getting late, and I am wondering if we can start the wake in time, because of the long queue of people still waiting to bid farewell to Daniel. I look around and I see that all seats are taken and that many people are standing in the back. What a comfort to see more than 300 people! I can't stop thinking that this is what Daniel always wanted to have: a church packed with people! For the Vernessa Mitchel concert, he invited his classmates and was disappointed that only his teacher and two or three classmates turned up. And now this! Nearly the whole class came, and many more friends from kindergarden and former classmates with their mothers or parents. "Did Daniel had to die, did he had to pay such a big price for this?" is the question I am asking me and God. I am proud that so many people attend. When condolescing, people from church are the ones who cry most , even though my tears seem to be used up. Finally, the electric organ begins to play, and Pastor Jerry stands at the pulpet behind the flower bed, accompanied by Gerald Goodall. A few introductory words and the band comes to the stages and we sing the two songs Yuki and I have chosen. I am surprized that I can actually sing! My throat is clogged, but the words come out. "On eagles wings", that is what Daniel is doing right now. He is flying with eagles wings and rejoicing.
Pastor Jerry's message is clear. He speaks about what is important in life. At the end he mentions something that strike a chord in me. "I know that some of you wish that Daniel would come back, or they wish to say one more last thing to him", he starts. "If I just could tell him how much I love him! But think about it the other way around. Imagine that Daniel would be able to say one more thing to you. What do you think he is going to tell you? I tell you. He is going to tell you 'Life is short; death is quick, judgement is sure. What are you waiting for? Give your life to Jesus and you will receive eternal life'." I continue this thought in my mind. Yes, it is true, how many times do we think about US when we think about the dead. 'What if...' we use to think. 'If I could just hug him one more'. But isn't this futile? What you have missed while the person was still alive, can't be undone in a single opportunity, in a single moment. What if Daniel could speak to us once more? Wouldn't he speak like this: "Hey, what are you waiting for? Life is short, you can see that at me. Death is quick; judgement is sure. I invited you to church, I showed you my faith, I showed you my affection and love for God. I trusted him while I was on earth, and now my trust is rewrded with eternal life. What are you waiting for? Make sure you don't miss it. Come on let's spend eternity together!"
Then, Gustavo steps on the stage and describes what a special relation he and Daniel had. Their Sunday-greeting "Ich liebe Dich" "Ich Dich auch"; Daniel's smile
His song is full of emotions. Gustavo has to clear his troat several times during singing. Then I do something not many mourning parents do: I step up to the front. I have heard and read that for many parents the time after a child has died is passing by like in a fog, having a feeling that everything is not real, that nothing really matters. Of course I feel the same. I know of the numbness, the pain, the feeling of unreality, but what I want to say is such a big burden to me that I can't help but saying it. Gerald agreed to translate for me, something that he does with an amazing brave heart.
"It fills me with great pride to see you all assembled here this evening. We choose to have the wake in this building, since this is our church. It might not look like a church from the outside, but the spirit of God is here." are the words I choose for the introduction. What I then say is something that you, as a reader of this book know already too well from previous chapters. Nevertheless, let me sumarize what I said to that crowd of nearly 400 people.
"Since Daniel was born, we knew that this day would come. He had his first operation when he was three days old. After altogether 5 operations and more than 20 times in hospital, you might say that he had a hard life. But I can also say that his life and our life has been so much blessed. Through him God showed us what is really important in life. Things that we know in our mind, but how many of us live by this; how many know it in here?" and I point to my heart. "Money isn't important. Last year we went to Berlin to ask for a heart-lung transplant, but even if I would have given a million dollars, the doctor couldn't have operated Daniel. Nor is fame important. Even if I would win a Nobel prize, I couldn't save Daniel. Even being healthy is not important. Daniel wasn't healthy, but he had a good life for 10 years. The only important thing in life is life itself." Then I do something which does not occur to me until we are back home that evening. I correct Gerald Japanese translation! Gerald who does such a wonderful job, which I can imagine is not easy for him. He translats the previous sentence into "Life is one of the important things in life". "No", I reply, "it is the only important thing in life!" When I realize what I have done, later in the evening, I feel so embarrassed! Anyway, I continue my speech and I think I finished with this: "Daniel was baptized in this church, and I consider myself honoured that I as a father could take part in this, that I could take part in leading him to God. It is my hope that you all find a way to the living God, as life is the only important thing in life. When you come to the front now, please remember that this what you see is only Daniel's body. Daniel himself is in heaven now. Thank you".
I look at Yuki, who did not know beforehand what I was speaking about and I see in her eyes that she agrees to my words. Shortly after I sit down, Gerald anounces that now, starting with us and the rest of the family, people can come forward and put flowers on the casket. We choose not to have a table in fornt of the casket, in order to let everybody have a closer look to Daniel's face, especially for the children. It turns out that the flowers we had prepared were by far not enough, so Makiko-san goes periodically to the casket and returns the flowers to the reception table. People condole us in what seems to be a neverending line. Some people I who I remember most dearly sob and weep, which makes me feel that I have to console them, and not the otherway around. Only those who have gone through such a big pain know how it feels what Yuki and I feel. But, thus we are also the ones who can give consolation, too. It is amazing to see how much power we receive from God in those hard times. Power enough not only for us to continue living but also the power of giving encouragement to those who want to encourage us. After the wake is over, we stay in church, speak with people, share things about Daniel. Out of the sudden I realize how much Tami cries. She cries and cries and cries. She can't stop even though we all try to comfort her. This wake must have hit her hard. Maybe just at that time she fully realizes what is means that Daniel is dead! On the other hand, it is good to see her weep. We know that she understands what is going on. Also for children the right way to mourn is important.
Jerry comes and we start a conversation. "You know, Jerry, even though it migh sound as herresy, I now know a little bit better what God, the father must have felt, when his own son died! Of course I can't compare us or me with God and Daniel with Jesus Christ, but I think that indeed the relation of a father to his children reflects Gods relation with us, or with his own son. Now that Daniel is dead, I begin to get a glimpse of how God must have felt whon his son took the sins of the world and died."
"Olaf. may I use this in my speech at tomorrows funeral?" Jerry asks.
"Of course you can", I reply.
Ryo-kun decides to spend the night at his sister's place. Something that I can understand very well. Finally, at 10:30 pm or so, we also leave the church. Suddenly, when we cross the street to go to our car, I realize how small our family is. Daniel is dead, Ryo-kun is not with us, so there is only Yumi and Tami. This feeling comes so suddenly, but it also happens to Yuki's mother at the same time. Somehow at this point I start to realize that Daniel is gone and I will never have to care about cars when he is crossing a street.
Saturday, August 19:
I do not know how many times I wake up during the night. Before sunrise I am awake and find hardly any sleep before it is time to get up. I sense the first stages of depression. Isn't it amazing how much we are able to see us "from outside" from time to time? I lay in bed, thinking "what sense does it make to get up? I can just also spend the whole day in bed." When I finally get up at 8 o'clock, Yuki has already prepared breakfast.
Yesterday evening we saw that Daniel's body shows the first signs of detoriation, despite, or maybe due to the use of dry-ice. We decide that I go to church and put some cream on Daniel's dry lips. When I arrive at the church Yuki calls me on my cellular phone, telling me that Yuki's brother Ken will be arrive at Sapporo station around 12 o'clock. Thus I hurry to the second floor. I am amzaed how dry Daniel's lips are already. Puting vaseline on them, it doesn't distribute well, and I have to wipe most of it away with tissue paper. Also the hairbrush doesn't do much good for combing his hair. Still, he looks very peaceful. Many people who saw him say that he is smiling. We have no idea and maybe will never know what he felt when he died, but we believe it was not painful. Even children, who are not spoiled like adults who have already read or heard about near-death-encounters and the vision of Jesus and angles, report the appearance of Jesus who calls them, when they are at the verge of death. Thus I think the three short convulsions of Daniel just seconds before his heart stopped beating was the time when the soul let go of the body. This must have been the time when Jesus called him home, and he left peacefully his body. This would explain his smile. It is still on his face, two days later. After that I rush to the station to pick up Ken. First we drive to curch to give him the opportunity to see Daniel's body in a more quiet time, since for the funeral service in the afternoon we expect again many people. Gustavo is at church. He, Morimoto-sensei and Yasuko are doing an amazing job. They prepared everything; all the paperwork was done by Morimoto-sensei, invitataions, buying postcards as presents for those attending the wake and the funeral, and so on. The list of tasks is endless, and the church is an invaluable help. We spend some time in front of the casket, then we drive home. The kids are happy that Ken came, but they behave different. We can see that their joy is overshadowed by Daniel's death.
People continue to come to our house. Later, I don't remember how many it were, but at least 5-6 groups of people. Yuki and I continue to explain how Daniel died over and over again. It is amazing how easy it becomes.
Later, after lunch we drive to ICF in two cars. Again many people come, and pour into the church. We sing the same two songs and Gustavo shares another testimony of Daniel.
Yesterday many of Daniel's classmates came with their parents. Today the whole class came, together with a two of their teachers. One classmate, Ai-chan shares with us what she felt after she learned of Daniel's death. She can barely speak, her voice is so shaken; she sobs and weeps heartbreakingly.
"Dear Daniel, we have a lot of good memories, being in the same class as you. From the sports festival, music events, picnics and field works we remember a lot of things. With the help of your parents and teachers you make a big effort at the sports festival. You sang very well at the music event. At the picnic and the field work you were always doing very well. In the morning, when you came always later to class, you always greeted us with a big "Hello".
Yesterday, o first day after the summer holidays, the teacher told us about you with a very sad expression. We all were very sad. Even though you are not in our class any longer, but we shall work hard, also for you. We wished we could see you becoming well. Now we are apart, we as your classmates are good friends forever."
The class decided to sing a song during the funeral service. A song that I have heard before during a "sankanbi". It is in tune, which makes the song very rich. The text is very appropriate for a funeral, because you can interpret it in a way that reflects the letting go of a life, a soul which is on its way to heaven.
"We spread our wings towards the sky and we fly with our dreams on it.
We are flying wherever we want over the earth.
We hold our hands to the bright tomorrow.
Now it is the time to let go our small paper airplane from our little hands."
As I did yesterday, I go to the front and start my speech. This time I barely listen to Geralds translation, leaving it completely to him. This morning I spoke with Yuki that I want to share something different from yesterday, and she suggested me some points which she would like to be mentionned. Why didn't I think of that yesterday? My testimony would have been better if I would have asked Yuki for advice. I start with the same introductory words about our church. Then I continue by addressing the audience:
" I know that you all miss Daniel. I know that you are grieving like we are grieving. I want to invite you to come to this place, to this church, whenever you have these feelings. Daniel loved this place very much. He liked to go to church and he would have liked to see you here. Thus, whenever you want to come, you are most welcome to remember Daniel here. I want to thank Daniel's classmates for singing their song. Daniel is now flying like that airplane in that song. We, as the ones still living here on earth, needed to let him go like the small hand that let go of the airplane. This song has a very deep meaning and I will never forget that you sang it. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart." I look at the 4th graders, and see that they understand what I meant to say.
"On the bottom of the handout for the funeral you will see some bible verses. These are the verses that Yuki and I choose for our wedding. Long before Daniel was born God gave us those verses, but we had no idea of how appropriate they would be and how precious they would become for us. 'Have joy, again I tell you have joy. Whatever will happen, Gods peace will be with you', these verses say. Of course we go through a time of grieving, my wife and I, but we also know that the peace of God, which is really supernatural, will fill our mind. I sincerely hope that you also will find this peace of mind. Thank you." I then closed with the reminder that what they see, are just the physical remains of Daniel. He himself is in heaven now. Then Gerald closes by announcing that the cremation will be tomorrow morning. Who wants to come once more to church and to bid farewell to Daniel, is invited, but the cremation itself will only be attended by family members.
Among those who come to the front for the flower service is Rumiko with her husband. What a surprize! We thought they are still in Mexico.
All the 4th garders of Daniel's school have prepared short notices about Daniel. The teachers collected them the previous day and bound them together into 4 volumes; one for each class. During the service they layed them on the casket. After the funeral service we skip through the short notes, and I am reading sporadically. Most notes are very encouraging, speaking of Daniel being in heaven now and having no pain and no physical restrictions anymore. Gerald takes one of the volumes and suddenly starts laughing out loud. "Olaf, you have to some here and read this!" he calls me. One of Daniel's classmates wrote "tengoku ha tsurai, dakedo chanto gambatte, ne" "heaven is hard, but hold out!" What an image of heaven! Both of us can't help, but laugh. I show the quote to Gustavo and this phrase becomes our greeting during the next few days. I feel that the inapproprietness and sillynes of this, but it makes the situation of Daniels death more bearable. Gerald also tells me that Daniel's death makes heaven much more 'closer' for his children. Now that they have lost Daniel, they start thinking and speaking of death and heaven more often at home. Another effect of Daniel's death. How much effect a human being has upon ones life comes into light often only after that person does not live anymore. What an irony. Now that Daniel is dead some people want to have him back, miss him so much.
After nearly everybody has left church, Brian, Gustavo and I are standing outside of the building. I pose the question that is the most burning in my heart. "Yesterday and today more than 400 people have attend the services. Many have heard the good news for the first time. This is how I wanted it. I know that this is a very good opportunity to show others how important our believe and faith is, but did Daniel had to die for this? Was it Gods plan to let him die in order to share the gospel with others? Was there no other way? Daniel's life was too precious, a too high price to pay for this! This can't be everything!"
Then the idea of writing a book becomes stronger and stronger in my mind. "I do not want that only 400 people. know about Daniel and his death. His life was too precious. I want a better cost-performance! Our family paid such a high price, thus I want that is has a more profound effect. I want not only 400, but 4000 or even 4 million people know about Daniel. I will write his life story and make it public. I don't know if this was God's will, but his life changed our family, our church and his friends. Why can't it affect the life of others, too? People who are in the same situation as we are, people who are desperate, in need, helpless, alone and depressed. Daniel can change their lifes, too."
After we three come to an end, praying, I see through the glass door that Yuki is sitting on the steps in the church, speaking to Yasuko. I see her smile and that fills me with great joy! It is the first time I see Yuki smile since Daniel's death and it fills me with hope that we someday will overcome the grief, or at least learn to live with it. I do not knowyet about the tough days, weeks and months that will follow, but there is hope for us!
That evening, around 11 pm David calls from California. We speak for about 20 minutes. He deeply regrets that he can't come. Then we speak about tomorrows cremation. He scares the hell out of me by describing that the whole skeleton is still intact after the cremation and that the bones will be collected from the feet upwards and put into the urn, crushing larger bones with a pistil, if necessary. "I don't want to see this", I think. Cremation makes everything so final. Even though a resurrection is still possible until then, after cremation there is nothing left to ressurect from!
Sunday, August 20
As planned, we go to church on Sunday morning with two cars. I will drive the Odyssey with the casket, the others will be im Masako's HRV. We arrive at 10 am; it is surprizing how many people are already waiting. In the next minutes they become more and more; maybe 30 people altogether. Gustavo and I load the casket into the Odyssey. I had planned that Yuki accompanies me, and Masako drives the HRV, but she doesn't know the crematory and is insecure if she will find it, even though she is driving directly behind us. Thus Yuki drives the HRV, I the Odyssey and Gustavo is on his bike. Somewhere on the road, we switch drivers in a move that does not comply with traffic regulation! Then we are as I wished we were. Yuki is with me in the Odyssey, Gustavo drives the HRV. The crematory is a qiet place in Teine-ku. What a nice place! Surrounded by trees in a park-like atmosphere is an old dark-brown wooden building. Two attendents are waiting for us, while we drive the Odyssey to the front. Our car is dirty as ever, but we have no problem with this. When Daniel was alive, the car was dirty, why should we polish it up for the last trip of his body on this earth? This is how we live, this is how Daniel died.
As before, we do everything by ourselves. I do not allow anybody unrelated to us to touch the casket. Gustavo and I put it on a schamotte table, which is then roled into the building. I am very unsecure what I should do. Should we pray? Where and how? Do we have to lit the two candles in front of an altar which is very neutral in appearance, showing no Buddhist relics (thanks to the person at the Ward office?)? Then Yuki asks Gustavo if he could sing a song. We all hold hands and follow the tune. Then the schamotte table is put in front of the oven doors. The attendents open the door, roll the table in and close the door, locking it with a key. "That's it" I think. From here on there is no return for Daniel.
We are led out of the cremation room and to a waiting room besides it. When we step outside, I see black smoke rising from the chimney. Black smoke that soon turns into the schlieren of clear hot air rising into the sky. Most of us go into the room, a 8 tatami-size room with a carpet. Somebody prepares tea and arranges two small tables. This place is only used 2-3 times per week, at most twice per day. That means we are the only family to be there. I am so happy that we choose this place instead of the big crematory on the other side of Sapporo. Dave told me that he liked the clean, airport-like atmosphere of the bigger place, but I am happy to be in Teine. Outside, there are two old, half-rotten benches where I invite Yuki to sit. We don't say much, just hold hands. Then Gustavo joins us, and he gives us encouraging verses from the bible. Some people come and visit graves on the ajourning cemetary. Ken and Yuta are playing ball on the lawn. For a short while Gustavo and I join them. Then around 11:30 the attendents call us again, and when they open the oven doors, my fears of seeing a complete skeleton are not met. Barely anything remained! The table is still hot, which ads to the heat of that bright Sunday morning. I leave it to the attendents to put the ashes into the urn. They are very careful to remove all nails from the casket with a magnet. They also collect metal parts which look like the wires that held Daniel's cranium together after his last operation. We could see them on all x-ray pictures, and I wonder if we should ask the attendents to put them into the urn too, since somehow they were a part of Daniel, too. I decide to say nothing, but Yuki voices the same thoughts. At the end the skull, which split into two parts, is the only what is left on the table. Again I refuse to put them into the urn, leaving it to the attendents. Why am I so indifferent now? Why did I do everything by my own hands while Daniel's body was still intact? Because now it is finalized. There is no need to care for those things, since Daniel is now really gone. His soul to heaven and his body to carbon dioxide and water vapor. My fears of a depressive cremation did not come true, and I am very thankful for that. I expected the devil to play foul, hitting below the belt-line, but God's grace was stronger. Before we departed from church this morning I asked Jerry to pray for us, since I expected the worst attacts of the devil that day. But thanks to God, it became a very peaceful, calm and remindful cremation.
There was nothing left to do than to put the urn in the Odyssey and drive home! Masako and the others went home straight away and Yuki and I droped by the church, where the Sunday service just has ended. We get prayed for and I tell Jerry how peaceful the cremation was.
Returning home, we order sushi from a nearby shop and have fellowship with family. Today also, people come in groups to our house. Relatives, friends, aquaintances who have heard of Daniel's death just today.